Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
If the idea of Rachael Ray as queen of the food world shivers your timbers, read no further: Gourmet magazine, until now stewarded by the excellent Ruth Reichl, will cease publication with the November issue, the NY Times reports. Condé Nast also gave the axe to Cookie, Elegant Bride, and Modern Bride. The print media mass grave fills apace…
The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”
The process of “Russification” is almost as old as Russia itself, yet to see it take shape in the present day can be quite distressing. In particular, Vladimir Putin’s recent proposal in Nezavisimaya Gazeta — in which the prime minister called for a “Russian canon” of literary works — has some people worried about its insidious potential for propaganda. Count Alexander Nazaryan among that group.
“If the taglines used to market lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to the country’s mainstream—‘Love Wins,’ ‘It Gets Better,’ and ‘You Can Play’—have led to unprecedented levels of inclusion and visibility, it is precisely by shoving sex aside and presenting gay people and straight people as essentially the same at heart. In the process, as the outsider status attached to being gay disappears in more and more contexts, some of gay culture’s radical roots risk being expunged from memory.” On Jim Downs’s Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation.
To commemorate publication of the 65th anniversary edition of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, New Directions has asked ten contemporary writers to “create new exercises in homage to Queneau.” Over at The Rumpus, you can check out Jonathan Lethem’s “Cyberpunk” exercise, as well as one of Queneau’s twenty eight “never before translated” exercises making its English debut in the new edition. Bonus: read our own Mark O’Connell on the “radical claims about the relationship between form and content” in Queneau’s writing.